Reality: The Top 6 teams in the AFC playoff race are combined 31-5 at home.
Perception: More so than in any other sport, in football there is a real home-field advantage. If the playoffs started today, the AFC playoff teams are 31-5 at home. Their 5 losses? The Rams, Chargers, Dolphins, Packers, and Broncos. That stat to me shows how much more important it is that the Ravens somehow win the division, so they can get a first-round home game in the playoffs.
Reality: The Baltimore Ravens trail the Bengals by two games in the AFC North.
Perception: In order for the Ravens to win the division, they need to win out, meaning they need to beat the Vikings, Lions, Patriots, and the Bengals. They would also need to hope the Bengals would lose to either the Colts, Steelers, or Vikings (as well as to the Ravens in the final week of the season). I can see the Bengals losing to the Steelers and the Ravens. But for me the bigger question is, can the Ravens beat the Lions in Detroit and/or the Patriots at home?
Reality: The Baltimore Ravens currently hold the 6th and final playoff spot in the AFC.
Perception: They are 6-6, tied with the Miami Dolphins. But the Ravens defeated the Dolphins earlier this season, so they hold the tie-breaker. Tennessee, Pittsburgh, San Diego, and the Jets all trail the Ravens and Dolphins by one game. Right now, the Ravens control their own destiny. If they win out, they are in the playoffs. If they lose even one game, they will need other teams to also lose in order to make the playoffs.
Reality: Justin Tucker has made 27 straight field goals, which is the longest current streak in the NFL.
Perception: I’ve said it all season: Tucker is the best kicker in the NFL. His streak of 27 straight field goals is remarkable, considering the length of some of his kicks and the playing conditions. Tucker is just nine field goals shy of the Ravens franchise record, of 36 straight held by Matt Stover. Can you guess who holds the second longest current streak in the NFL? Former Ravens kicker Steven Hauschka, who has hit 17 straight. Now, if only the Ravens could evaluate talent at other positions (like WR) as well as they do kickers!
Reality: Joe Flacco is 10-1 in his career against NFC teams at M&T Bank Stadium
Perception: Flacco and the Ravens take on the Minnesota Vikings at home Sunday. All the stats for Joe and the Ravens playing at home say that this should be an easy win this weekend. And it should! But it’s a perfect “trap game” for the Ravens, and they have fallen victim to those games often over the last few years. Adrian Peterson is a stud and he leads the NFL with 1,208 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. Last week, he rushed for 211 yards against the Bears. But the bigger stat here is missed tackles. Peterson has broken 64 tackles this season, second only to Marshawn Lynch, who has forced 66 missed tackles. The Ravens have done an above average job at tackling this year (unlike previous seasons), and they will need to square up and hit Peterson straight on if they want to win Sunday.